Vinokourov disappointed to leave final Tour de France through injury
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vinokourov disappointed to leave final Tour de France through injury

by VeloNation Press at 5:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
 
Fractured femur for Vino, team pledges to fight on

Alexandre VinokourovConfirming that this is indeed his final Tour de France and that his crash won’t cause a change of mind, Alexandre Vinokourov has said that he is saddened to bid farewell to the race by leaving in an ambulance.

The Astana leader had hoped to go out on top, winning a stage and possibly finishing on the podium, but instead his race came to an end when he crashed 110 kilometers into Sunday’s stage. He was transported to hospital in Aurillac where an x-ray showed that he had fractured the head of his right femur.

He was then transferred this evening to the Hospital La Pitié Salpetriere in Paris, where he will be operated up on by Professor Yves Catonne, the Head of Orthopedic and Traumatology service.

Some will have hoped that he will come back next year to try to rewrite the way his final Tour ends, but this will not be the case. “I never expected such a dramatic end on the Tour de France. This is a terrible disappointment to me, I am so sad tonight,” he said. “But I want to reassure myself by telling myself that it could have been much worse.

“The injury will stop me for quite a long time, and I will follow the Tour on television to support the entire Astana team. I know my friends of the team won’t forget me and they will do everything to win at least one stage.”

Team-mate Dimitry Fofonov was one of many who came down in the crash, and so has a first hand account of how it happened. “We were well placed in the bunch, the pace was fast in the pack, and Garmin-Cervélo and Omega Pharma-Lotto increased the pace to take benefit of the descent to reduce the gap of the breakway,” he explained. “The road was a bit wet and we arrived to a very tight left turn. Ahead of us, they took a wrong trajectory. Thor Hushovd began to put his foot down, a rider from Lotto just ahead of us wanted to cut a little to the left, whereas with Alexander we took the turn wide. The Lotto rider slipped and started to take us with him, and we found ourselves faced with a concrete column. We braked to avoid it and were forced to drop into the ravine.”

Images from the scene showed Vinokourov’s bike being taken out of the forest. It became clear to those watching that the rider had gone off the road and was hurt. That was confirmed when his team-mates lifted him to his feet, and had to practically carry him back up to the corner.

“Alexander really wasn’t lucky,” Fofonov continued. “He was ahead of me and was stopped in his fall by a tree. I crashed and got up immediately, I felt I had nothing serious wrong. I told Alexander, "come on, we [need to] go!” He answered, “Wait, not now, I think I have something broken!". So I came up to him and I wanted to lift him, but he was afraid that we may make a bad move that could make him worse. I then saw the ambulance arrive at the top, next to the road and called for help. Remy Di Gregorio and Andry Grivko came down and helped Alexandre to go onto the road, holding onto their shoulders.

“At this point, we realized that Alexander could not continue. We went back directly on the race with the adrenaline but then we realized and it's really sad! Crashes are part of the race, part of our sport, but today, we lost our leader. It's not easy to accept.”

Final Tour glory denied to Vino

The Astana team was set up in 2006 to enable Vinokourov to ride the Tour de France after the Liberty Seguros team collapsed due to Opéracion Puerto. The rider wasn’t implicated in the doping affair but was ultimately unable to start the Tour as the team didn’t field enough riders. He won a time trial and a road race stage in the 2007 edition, but was then ejected from the event when it became clear that he had tested positive for a blood transfusion.

He served a two year ban and returned to the sport in 2009. He won a stage of the Tour de l’Ain and last year took both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and stage 13 of the Tour de France. His results this year included stage wins in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and Tour de Romandie, third overall in the latter and also third overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné.

As Fofonov stated, Di Gregorio was one of those who helped his team leader out of the ravine. “When I arrived, I really believed that Alexander was going to return to the race, I really hoped that,” he said. “I could not believe it would end this way. But when we helped him to go up and we saw that he could not walk, we understood.

“When we returned on our bikes, the first 10 km were hard, we were still in shock. This kind of event shows that cycling is really a dangerous sport, I don’t want to overdo it, but sometimes we risk our lives. It's a shame for the team because we had worked around him. And it's sad for Alexandre, because he is a great person and for his last Tour, he deserved to finish in another way, he really had no luck. But we will continue the Tour de France to honour the team and Alexandre.”

It is uncertain if Vinokourov will be able to race again this season. He previously indicated that he might ride the 2012 Olympic Games if requested to do so by the Kazakstan leaders. He is expected to take up a management role with Astana.

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